Friday, January 22, 2010

Holiday Hostess

Due to the flu not all the students will be able to return to their home towns over the Korban Festival. My roommate and I got to thinking how lonely and miserable it would be to have to spend Christmas in dorm away from family and friends. We may not be good Uyghur Mama's but we figured we could open up our home over the holiday for some of our local friends who are stuck here away from their families. So the night before Korban the girls came over to our house and prepared some traditional food (lamb meat ball soup). They all shared some favorite traditions and memories and we tried to make as many of them come true as we could. Normally foreign students around the world feel honoured if they get invited to someone's home to share in the traditional holiday, this year we, the foreigners, played host to a festival that was not our own.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Gun to the Head

My roommate works for a translation company, the other day two strange men came strolling into her office. They were dressed in uniforms and entered saying "everyone stay seated and don't move". The younger man pulled something from his pocket and pressed it against my friend's temple. A momentary fear griped her as the man pressed a button on the object pointed at her head. "37" the man said curtly to his associate, before moving on to her next work mate. It took my friend a second to realize they were taking every one's temperature to check for H1N1.

I had a similar experience last week just trying to go into a book store. It seems like all over the city people are scared of the spread of the virus. If a class have five students report being sick, the rest get the week off as well. My winter cough has set in, but I am scared to cough anywhere outside for fear that someone will lock me up in isolation for a week.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Face Mask Instead of Fruit

When news of the swine flu first started to be reported last year, I heard more than one Uyghur joke that we wouldn't have to worry, since the Uyghur diet is no pork allowed. But as we know H1N1 has spread far and wide and there have been some reported deaths in our city. This has fears running high and face masks on.

Every local store now sells surgical face masks. They come in every colour and fashion print imaginable. The other day my friend came over for a visit, but instead of bringing me the customary gift of fruit, she brought a pale purple heart print face mask.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mehrigul Gets Ready for the Holiday

The Islamic holiday of Korban is fast approaching (or it will likely be over by the time my mom posts this blog entry for me) and I decided to go to the bazaar and let my neighbours help me get ready. The week before the market was just bustling with people preparing. People buy fruit and candy, cakes and cookies to offer when guests stop by, most women buy a new outfit so they have something pretty to wear when they go shopping, and some people buy small gifts for the children.

As I walked through the market I could hear people whispering to each other "that was the girl who was on the Lucky Star game show last week", or "that is the girl who was on T.V., her name is Mehrigul". Other people just started singing the folk song I had sung as they walked by. I stopped a group of college aged girls and asked if they could help me get ready for the holiday. For the next two hours it seemed like everyone in the market was thrown into the task of helping Mehrigul get ready. Those girls helped me choose a black, gray, and pink plaid skirt. At the next store other people helped me find a bright pink sequent sweater to match. Some old ladies helped me pick out pink stoned heart shaped, surrounded by diamond looking earrings. I had more help getting knee high black boots with rhinestones on them. The whole outfit cost me about $30 Canadian. It may be a little more bling than I would normally wear, but I didn't have to bargain to get the get the real price. The shop owners had seen me on T.V., they had heard my limited language skill, and they still viewed me as one of them.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

When It Rains It Pours

A few months ago I shared how excited we all were with the opening of a new ice cream place. After years of going without and good frozen treats we were thrilled. Our joy has been doubled recently - a Dairy Queen opened. Dairy Queen can you believe it????? We don't even have a McDonald's out here yet. They have blizzards, brownie sundaes, fancy frozen coffee drinks, and so much more. It tastes a little different than home, just based on the ingredients available. It is really expensive (for the price of a medium blizzard you could buy dinner at a average restaurant). Oh well, I have only been there once in the month it has been open, but just knowing it is there if I ever want some is half the fun.